The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 5, 2013

Woman suspected in husband's death returns to Limestone


From staff, wire reports

— A Madison woman previously convicted of murder in the poisoning death of her husband was back in Limestone County Thursday.

Kathy Diane Birge, 58, was transported from Julia Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka where she’s been serving a 20-year sentence on theft and forgery convictions.

Limestone Country District Attorney Brian Jones said a discovery was filed by Birge’s lawyers, Patrick Hill and Robin Clem. Birge was brought to Limestone County to give the attorneys a chance to meet with her in a “non-prison setting,” he said.

Though convicted of capital murder in 2003 in the death of her husband, Cecil Birge, the conviction was overturned by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals four years later.

In a 5-0 decision, the court said the conviction had to be overturned because the state failed to maintain a sufficient chain of custody for tissue and fluid samples taken from her husband’s body and because evidence was improperly presented at her trial.

During Birge’s trial in 2003, she testified she returned home from shopping on May 5, 2001, to find her 54-year-old husband, Cecil Birge, dead on the floor of their home. She testified he had been drinking alcohol and taking pills on the day he died and was in declining health.

After talking to Kathy Birge, Limestone County Coroner Mike West ruled Cecil Birge died of natural causes. But Cecil Birge’s daughter by a previous marriage, Michelle Swift of Anderson, Ind., insisted the death was suspicious and blocked Kathy Birge’s plan to have the body cremated.

On May 25, 2001, investigators exhumed the body from a cemetery in Fishers, Ind., and an autopsy revealed fatal levels of prescription drugs.

Jones said he’s been working to piece together a 12-year-old case, and plans to travel to Indianapolis to look through old pathology files. If he can’t find what he’s looking for, he said, it may be necessary to exhume Cecil Birge’s body a second time.

“There are some details we have to find an answer to,” he said.